Your ideal way to learn French may involve chatting with a local while nibbling on a crusty baguette under the Eiffel Tower, but alas, most of us are unable to pick up and go to Paris right now. Studies say that immersion helps us process language the same way a native speaker does, making it arguably the best way to learn a foreign language. So what to do if you can’t immerse yourself?
Not to worry. There WILL be a time in the future when you can have both your baguette and the immersive experience you desire. In the meantime, here are 5 easy and enjoyable ways to improve your French.
1. Subscribe to a blog, vlog or podcast that will help you learn French
Let’s be honest. Sometimes we’re not the most proactive when it comes to language learning. A simple message in our inbox can be the perfect reminder to take some time out to practice French vocabulary, a grammatical concept or learn more about French culture.
Let’s say you’re a foodie. Then you’ll probably enjoy a blog like Les Bonnes Adresses de Tatie Vinca, which highlights fabulous restaurants and pâtisseries in Paris from a self-proclaimed “grande gourmande.” Even if you’re a beginner in French, you’ll be able to follow along as there are lots of photos and the posts are concise. Bonus: you’ll have a list of places to visit on your next trip! Tatie Vinca also shares a selection of recipes with photos that will have your mouth watering.
American vlogger in Paris Jay Swanson goes a step further, taking you to a Parisian cafe and teaching you some important vocabulary along the way in his video, “How to Survive Ordering in a Parisian Cafe.” Jay has been in Paris for many years and has created nearly 1,500 vlogs about living in France. From saying “bonjour” to asking for “l’addition,” he covers everything you’ll need to know to feel comfortable (and how to order the type of coffee you really want).
If you’re an intermediate to advanced-level French speaker and want to go deeper, check out Journal en Français Facile, a podcast by Radio France International, which shares the daily news in France in 10 minutes and is read at a slower pace so it’s easier to understand. A free transcript is available as well.
2. Watch French movies and shows with subtitles
Alright, maybe you’re not able to travel right now, but as Jay Swanson shows us, you can always travel virtually! French movies and shows are a fantastic way to dive into French culture and give you a taste of life in France. You might “visit” a charming seaside town through the classic musical comedy Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, starring Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly, or transport yourself to Paris with the clever, award-winning film Amélie, called Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain in French.
Photo courtesy of allocine.fr
A very funny and intriguing show set in the City of Light is Dix Pour Cent, about a talent agency and their very tricky clients. All 4 seasons are currently streaming on Netflix. Note that the name of the series in English is Call My Agent! (helpful when searching), but of course you’ll want to watch it in French. And don’t forget to always add the subtitles IN FRENCH so you can read along and start connecting the written and spoken word.
3. Cook in French
Before we get into gastronomy, you’ll probably want to watch one movie in English: Julie & Julia, about a young New Yorker who tries to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This should get you in the mood to whip up some fine French cuisine!
Now cooking is one thing. Learning French is another. This is why you should challenge yourself to do recipes in French. Pick your favorite French dishes – think coq au vin, bouillabaisse or even something as simple as a gâteau au yaourt – and get the recipes en français.
If you’re really lost, you can put the recipe into Google Translate, but always go back to the French version and follow it! And here’s a tip: as you’re learning new words, do your best to sketch pictures next to them if they’re not there already. For example, if it says “3 oeufs”, draw three eggs instead of writing “three eggs”. This will train your brain to associate the French words with the image and avoid translating, which is an unnecessary step.
4. Sing in French
There’s a good reason why children sing nursery rhymes all the time in school. Music helps everyone learn! Among other things, music supports spoken and receptive language. The more you listen to songs in French and take time to study the lyrics, the more you’ll find yourself singing along and understanding.
In “Sympathique” by Pink Martini, the lead singer croons:
Ma chambre a la forme d'une cage
Le soleil passe son bras par la fenêtre
Les chasseurs à ma porte
Comme les p'tits soldats
Qui veulent me prendre
Is this woman in some sort of trouble? You’ll have to listen to the rest of the song to find out. Fun fact: this song was inspired by a poem called “Hôtel” by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918).
Luckily today you can find the lyrics to almost any song out there. Pick a song in French that you like and read the lyrics as you listen to the music. Like any good song, it’ll most likely get stuck inside your head, which means you’ll definitely be retaining some French phrases!
5. Get a French tutor
So far we’ve discussed several ways for you to build French language skills which will enhance comprehension, but there’s another component that you must work on to achieve proficiency in French, and that’s speaking French. Eh oui. If you want to engage in active learning – the type of learning that stimulates attention, participation, and discussion while allowing for frequent feedback – then you must work with someone one-on-one to learn French.
A French tutor will skillfully assess your level of French and discuss your language-learning goals with you in order to create a learning program to meet your needs. The above activities are a fantastic starting point, but a tutor will really guide you with an appropriate curriculum and provide you with multiple resources to create a solid foundation for you to help you learn French quickly.
TUTOROO has a network of professional, private French tutors in several cities around the world. These tutors are also equipped to teach online, so whether you want to learn French in Dubai, learn French in Hong Kong or do so from the comfort of your own home, they are ready to help you on your French language-learning journey.